Does the Plan for I-25 and Broadway Do Enough for Biking and Walking?

i25 and broad
Image: City and County of Denver

“The ‘Midtown’ of Denver.” That’s how a 95-page blueprint from various city agencies envisions the area around RTD’s I-25 and Broadway Station.

The plan makes some exciting promises: Walkable, bikeable, transit-friendly streets and bridges would reconnect neighborhoods divided by I-25, the South Platte River, train tracks, and wide, fast roads. And planners want to create a new mixed-use neighborhood with housing, plazas, offices, retail space, and parks anchored by the light rail station.

Will Denver pull it off? Funding, as is often the case, is a big question mark. RTD’s addiction to pairing its transit investments with lots of parking could also spoil the vision of multi-modal streets. When it’s time to build, the whims of private developers may not align with the city’s goals.

Some residents last night said the plan doesn’t go far enough for walking and biking — they wanted guarantees that all bridges will provide car-free connections. Still, if actualized, the plan promises a thorough makeover. The whole document is massive and worth a read [PDF], but here’s a breakdown.

“Transformative Projects”

David Gaspers, the project manager with Community Planning and Development, said the plan identifies “transformational projects that are important enough that they need to be talked about separately.” Building these projects depends on whether private developers agree with them down the road, and whether funding is available. Here’s a partial list:

  • Bridges over the railroad tracks and the river that connect people to the station from east and west of I-25. Some will be just for people walking and biking, but some will allow cars in addition to providing paths for pedestrians and bicyclists.
  • A “signature shared-use street” parallel to South Broadway between Kentucky and Mississippi. Planners see the street as a promenade that prioritizes walking and biking over vehicular traffic.
  • A new, narrow street for people walking, biking, and possibly driving would extend from West Exposition Avenue across the railroad tracks and connect Athmar Park to the new area.
  • A redesigned Mississippi Avenue would include a biking and walking path that connects South Broadway to Santa Fe, signals that prioritize pedestrian and bicycle crossings, and a “wide bicycle and pedestrian connection”  along the seven-lane Mississippi bridge.
  • Plazas built “at a human scale” under the I-25 overpass and in other areas around the site that would include designated bike paths.
  • Exposition Avenue would become the “gateway” to the station for both people and cars, with a bikeway that’s separated from traffic, and wider sidewalks with a buffer from the street.

Undermining a Place for People With Over 1,200 Parking Spots

RTD’s light rail station would anchor this “multimodal hub” — which made RTD’s absence from last night’s public workshop, the project’s third, remarkable. In fact, the transit agency isn’t even listed as a participant in the blueprint. (The partner agencies are Community Planning and Development, Denver Public Works, and the Parks and Recreation Department). This despite I-25 and Broadway being Denver’s most important transit hub behind Union Station.

“RTD should be here, because I have a lot of questions for them,” said Luchia Brown, president of Baker Historic Neighborhood Organization.

Given the area’s metamorphosis from industrial sprawl into a dynamic group of neighborhoods, one question is why RTD would maintain the station’s 1,248 parking spaces. That’s the plan right now — to keep I-25 and Broadway Station as a park-n-ride. That type of thinking flagrantly opposes the plan’s goals by encouraging driving and car-oriented design. Car owners can park for free or for cheap at the station, which is right off the highway.

Next Steps

The I-25 and Broadway plan is technically still a draft. The final version will go to the Denver Planning Board for a vote on February 17. Until then, planners say residents can still influence the blueprint by commenting.

  • garbanzito

    thanks for explaining why RTD’s absence is so glaring; talking informally to some involved in the process, i heard vague explanations such as that RTD isn’t structured to participate in planning like this … if that’s really RTD’s excuse, it’s pitiful — untrained, unpaid neighbors overcome bigger obstacles to actively engage, so RTD can do it too

    that massive park’n’ride is one of the reasons that Broadway “must be” widened, and that there’s such a weird traffic pattern, with a lot of traffic between Broadway & Santa Fe via Mississippi

    RTD felt it could reduce the parking at Alameda Station when the West Line opened (reasoning that some users of Alameda Station would now park closer to home) — so what RTD needs to do is find ways to push some of the people who park at Broadway Station to to park closer to their homes south of Denver; perhaps part of that comes down to the assumptions RTD (or perhaps DRCOG) has built into traffic models — they project 20 years out without any accounting for potential major attitude shifts

  • John Riecke

    For all the interest in bikable, walkable, mixed use neighborhoods the powers that be seem determined to stymie such thoughts. It’s a shame that the city is rejecting financially and socially productive places in order to cater to the destructive car driving habits they’ve so far encouraged and which have turned parts of the city into un-lovable traffic sewers.

  • Walter Crunch

    Wide fast roads kill neighborhoods. Cars are a scourge and a disease that we are further inflicting on the area.

    • Dan

      Hey Walter? – Do you have a car? – Do you ever need access to one?
      If not, you must not ever go anywhere more than a bikes ride away from home. ooooh, a scourge, you really HATE cars, don’t you. You do realize you live right in the MIDDLE of a large city don’t you?

      • Walter Crunch

        I need one because my government continues to subsidize the 1950s ida of car culture. The government could stop anytime. Why won’t they? Childhood athmas, copd, world war, famine, genocide…..but yet….we need the car right?

        • Dan

          ONLY if your trying to further than a mile or so and don’t have to take anything with you that won’t fit in a backpack, so no, we don’t really need cars, right?

          • TonesOfLife

            The point is not about needing, its about not being dependent on. It would be great to have options. Currently you DO need a car. That’s the problem Walter and many others are trying to fix..

            Having a car is an elite culture of its own…

  • Brent

    We can’t all afford to live within biking distance of I-25 & Broadway, which is surrounded by some of the most expensive homes in Denver. All of southwest Denver – you know, that entire quadrant of the City west of Santa Fe, which the elitist urbanist/cycling community chooses to ignore – relies on I-25 and Broadway for an affordable commute into downtown. You shouldn’t get to inconvenience all of us (unnecessarily) just to further improve your exclusive urban playgrounds. RTD and the City – who are actually accountable to voters, unlike the blogosphere – recognize this.



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